“In short, we teach, we empower, and we transform.”

The following is a transcript from a speech given by Tim Payne, FLOC’s Executive Director at the 2010 Fundraising Breakfast.

“Again, good morning and welcome — and if you weren’t here for the opening remarks, I’m Tim Payne, executive director of FLOC.  Thank you for joining us.

Now because this is FLOC, please join me in a brief educational exercise.  I’d like to ask you to stand if you were among the first generation in your family to earn a post-secondary degree. I stand with you:  I’m the first person in my family to earn a college degree. OK, thanks — you may be seated.

Now, all of you who were just standing, and frankly everyone in the room who has a post-secondary degree, take a second to remember how you got there.  What were some of the challenges you may have faced? What type of support did you have? How has having that degree impacted that your life?

My parents didn’t go to college, but I was always told that I could be anything I wanted as long as I worked hard and aimed high.  I graduated from The George Washington University in 2001 (Go Colonial’s!) and I joined FLOC’s staff full time the day after our graduation ceremony.

Now consider that fewer than 10% of DC high school students are likely to earn a post-secondary degree.  Fewer than 10%. Just think about all of that wasted opportunity – for the individuals involved, for their families, and for our community.

To me, that is simply unacceptable.  There is plenty of compelling evidence that when students are challenged academically and given high expectations, they can and do achieve at higher levels.

The students that FLOC serves face many more obstacles that I did.  But I see hope in every one of those kids and I believe they have has as much promise, if not more, than I did when I was there age.

I believe, as a community, we should embrace the power we have to come together and help the next generation realize their potential.

That’s where FLOC and all of you come in.  Our experience shows that students from the most challenging situations can complete a high school and post-secondary education if they are encouraged and prepared.

At FLOC, we start in the earliest stages of elementary school and stay with our kids, regardless of where they live or what type of school they attend, creating an educational pipeline to college and career success.

In elementary school, students start with weekly one-on-one tutoring with professionally trained volunteers. We teach fundamental reading, writing, math, and critical thinking skills.  For example, if you walked into one of our classrooms you might see a third grader and her tutor throwing a ball into a trashcan.  What you might not realize is they are working on core math skills.

In middle school, students attend weekly workshops with our experts in leadership development, diversity education, and community engagement. During the summer, they are invited to climb, canoe, and learn about green living at our Outdoor Education Center. Stop by our middle school program, and you might see our young leaders learning about global distribution of wealth and inequality by slicing up a chocolate cake.

In high school FLOC students receive personalized college and career planning with dedicated, weekly coaching. Last month, while many of us were following the NCAA tournament and filling out our brackets, our high school students used that event to research 65 different opportunities for post-secondary education.  Our post-secondary scholars are eligible for scholarship funds along with guidance and continued support, to get on  — and stay on — a successful college or career track.

All together, about 25 staff and 300 volunteers serve nearly 500 students a year, including the 57 scholars who have already graduated from high school and are currently pursuing the post-secondary dreams.

Through all of our activities, we provide powerful experiences that foster intellectual, social, and emotional intelligence.

In short, we teach, we empower, and we transform.  These words really capture our work.  Each of our programs teach; each of our programs empower; and all of our programs combined help students transform their futures.

You can see this in the student who is not afraid to read in front of the class, because his tutor helped him gain not only reading skills, but greater confidence in himself.

You can see it in our middle school students who realized their ability to make positive change and organized a cell-phone recycling drive to send school supplies to their peers in Kenya.

And we see it every time another student takes a risk to pursue a greater learning opportunity, whether it is starting a plumbing apprenticeship, going to a prestigious university, or attending an art school.

I’m very proud to report that for the last three years in a row, 100% of FLOC’s high school seniors have graduated and all are now pursuing post-secondary education. In the lower grades, on average, students improve by one year of grade-level equivalency in reading and math after just 22 weeks of one-on-one tutoring.

Beyond the numbers, these kids are just remarkable; students like Durrell.  When I asked Durrell, “When did you start coming to FLOC?” his response was pretty typical. “Oh, I don’t know, when I was a little kid.”  Now if you could picture Durrell, 6’ 2’ – played defensive line on his football team – I’m not sure he was ever a ‘little kid’  In any case, he started with FLOC 14 years ago, when he was in the first grade and falling behind in reading. Since then, Durrell has been involved with every possible opportunity FLOC has provided, from his days in elementary school through his college experience.  When I asked him to describe the impact FLOC has had on his life he said, “It’s simple, in the acronym – For Love of Children – it provides immediate rewards and benefits; its about uplifting children; keeping kids close and down to earth.  FLOC kept me challenged and kept me going.  It’s the reason I’m in college today.”

I’ve had the opportunity to watch Durell develop into the man he is today, a senior at Bowling Green University, set to graduate in a just a few short weeks with a degree in Sports Management. And every time I see one of FLOC’s students, I see the same hope and potential I saw in Durrell some 10 years ago.

For transformations like Durrell’s and the hundreds of other students we serve, we need your help.  Our capacity is directly correlated to your support and action.

And so I’d like to ask you to ask yourself – how can I help teach, empower and transform?

Its pretty easy, we need your time, your ideas and your resources.

Give a few hours of each week to tutor one of our amazing kids.  Come and join our middle school students in cleaning the Anacostia River.  Introduce a high schooler to your career and bring them into your workplace for a day.  Our waitlist never goes away, and every volunteer who can commit 2 hours a week means one more student we can serve.

Or offer your unique skills and resources like event planning, technology, or media relations. Tell your friends about FLOC.  Introduce us to your network.   Come to a FLOC 101 tour and see our programs in action, and bring a friend along. Open your checkbook and give generously, if you are able.  New networks and new investments for FLOC mean more opportunities for our kids.

However you are moved, I hope you will invest in For Love of Children. Rest assured:  Your time and resources will make a difference for young people like Durrell, Luis, and Kenya.

I’m proud to be a part of advancing a vision of our community in which all students – regardless of the situation they were born into – can receive a great education and achieve their dreams.

Please join us in advancing that vision.  I leave you with this challenge:  Help us teach, help us empower, and help transform the futures of our students.   Because 10% is simply unacceptable.

Thank you.”

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